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The IT unemployment rate: An ever-tightening IT labor market

July 20, 2015
By Jason Hayman

We’ve passed the midyear point so it’s a perfect time to review and reflect on riveting topics like the current population survey. For those that don’t comb through the annals of bureaucratic data, it’s a monthly household survey that provides comprehensive information on the employment and unemployment of the population classified by age, sex, race and other characteristics. Got it? We’re going to focus on the “other characteristics” portion of that mouthful. More specifically, we’re going to take a tour of the IT unemployment rate and sort through what those numbers mean for job seekers and employers alike. 

In June, the overall unemployment rate, which has steadily been trending downward, reached 5.3 percent. While not historically low, we haven’t seen that unemployment rate since 2008. IT, which tends to mirror the overall unemployment rate, albeit at a much lower rate, is also in territory it hasn’t seen in seven years. At 2 percent, the IT unemployment rate is about one-third of what it was at the height—or low point, depending on how you want to look at it—of the great recession. In some areas of IT the labor market it is even tighter. Skill sets like network architects/engineers, and software developers/engineers are hovering near 1 percent.

Seems like a great time to be in IT. Granted, employers will obviously struggle. According to a recent TEKsystems survey, 81 percent of IT leaders say they have difficulty finding IT talent, and who can blame them? I mean, looking at the IT unemployment rate, about 98 percent of IT workers have a job. If you incorporate frictional unemployment—essentially the voluntary lag time when a worker changes jobs—into the equation, you’re looking at negative unemployment. Let that boggle your mind for a moment. So if I’m an IT professional everything is sunshine and roses. I’m in high demand and quality job opportunities abound. But if that’s true, why do 7 out of 10 IT professionals report difficulty finding quality opportunities?

The challenge of matching the right candidate with the right opportunity is often the result of inadequate or rushed recruiting practices. Recruiters under pressure to fill a specific opening don’t take the time to learn about the candidate’s skills, goals and interests—which makes matching a candidate with the right opportunity nearly impossible.

When a recruiter contacts a candidate for the first time they often lead with something like, “I’ve got the perfect opportunity for you,” or “what’s your salary range?” The recruiter doesn’t always stop to contemplate the goals and interests of the candidate, which leads to frustrated employers who can’t seem to find quality candidates. In fact, the majority of employers report 1 out of 2 resumes they receive is unqualified for the job opening. So how do we escape this seemingly unending cycle?

Rather than pontificating on the War for Talent, Battle for Brains, or whatever other cliché you want to use, simply accept that this is the reality of the IT labor market and adapt. Work with recruiters who have the best interests of the candidate in mind, which will lead to better opportunities and better candidates, helping both sides navigate an ever-tightening IT labor market.

Enjoyed this blog post? Read some of our other interesting posts about IT jobs:

5 career tips for new graduates in IT

The pros and cons of IT job hopping

The coolest jobs in IT

Jason Hayman is the market research manager for TEKsystems and an enthusiastic economic data geek. 

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